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Alarm raised over St. Clair right-of-way

Jun 19, 2008 04:30 AM
Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter

The St. Clair West streetcar right-of-way once again is mired in controversy as TTC officials yesterday threw cold water on a report suggesting it’s unsafe for fire trucks.

The Toronto Fire Services report suggests the right-of-way down the centre is too narrow for fire trucks to navigate safely when they must mount it to bypass traffic.

The right-of-way “is not usable by Toronto Fire Services for emergency response,” says the April 9 document by District Chief Robert Leek.

Trucks risk smashing their mirrors into the streetcar power traction poles in the middle of the right-of-way, or damaging tires or equipment on curbs, the pavement being about 6 metres wide rather than the usual 9 metres. The design also poses a problem to aerial ladders and other equipment, the report says.

Fire trucks have difficulty manoeuvring around the centre poles to bypass streetcars waiting on the track to allow emergency vehicles to pass, it also said.

“This is an urgent concern of public safety for the literally tens of thousands of local residents who live in the vicinity of St. Clair Ave. W. and who rely on emergency vehicles to be able to move quickly and safely across the street,” said Cesar Palacio (Ward 17-Davenport), who circulated the report.

While fire trucks can use the right-of-way, they must drive more slowly than they would in an emergency, said Fire Chief Bill Stewart. But he added: “The St. Clair roadway is safe. … Toronto Fire Services will continue to respond to St. Clair Ave. as we’ve always done. If we were to work a fire there, we would have to close down the street.”

St. Clair is experiencing growing traffic, and the narrower road allowance means cars have less room to move to the side to let fire trucks pass, forcing them to drive on the raised right-of-way.

Meantime, TTC officials were trying to figure out why the objections surfaced so long after key sections of the line were finished and only a year from the projected finish date.

The centre pole configuration, considered more attractive than wires hanging from each end of the street, had fire department approval, said TTC vice-chair Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21-St. Paul’s).

“I can assure you the fire department … has signed off on the plans and have deemed the right-of-way safe. Is it ideal? No, it isn’t ideal. Is it ideal for motorists? No, it isn’t ideal because in some places it is 3-metre-wide lanes. Everybody had to pinch a little bit.”




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